Length: 154 minutes / 2.57 hours
Technically the fifth in the Superman franchise that started in the late 1970’s, Superman Returns feels a bit like the black sheep of the bunch. There’s a sense that it’s just tacked on to try and capitalize on some of the popularity of superhero films, in part because of the director’s previous successes with other superheroes. Part of me thinks that Bryan Singer should have directed the third X-Men film instead of this movie; since he clearly knew what he was doing with that Marvel property. But what really gets me about this film is the way it “plays to the audience.”
If you ask diehard fans of two of the most iconic fandoms what their absolute least favorite film is in their canon, you’ll get some telling answers. For Star Wars fans, it’s Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) and for Star Trek fans, it’s Into Darkness (2013). But why do they hate these films, even though they love the franchise? It’s because the fans were catered to by the producers. They were given everything they “love” about their franchise, but because it was done as a calculated effort and not as a natural occurrence, the effect ended up being quite the opposite.
In Superman Returns, we find all the Superman tropes in full force, almost like the producers put them in there on purpose. You can’t go ten minutes in this film without Clark Kent (Brandon Routh) ripping his shirt open to show the signature “S” underneath, or people bickering about birds and planes. Let’s not even get into how fake the blue contacts made our eponymous hero’s eyes look (it was almost as distracting as The Daily Planet being set in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax building). The one saving grace of this whole film was definitely Lex Luthor, played by a scenery-chewing Kevin Spacey.
An addition to a franchise that should have ended with Christopher Reeve, I give Superman Returns 2.5 stars out of 5.